Monday, August 6, 2012

Politics (random thoughts on the financial side of things)

Why are politics such a difficult discussion topic? It seems like whenever a presidential election is coming up people draw sides and stick to their respective corners. I was born and raised in one of the most conservative states, lived in the only state that didn't vote for Reagan in 1984 and now currently live in the biggest projected swing state of the 2012 election. I can't say that I've seen it all, but I have certainly been introduced to many different viewpoints. And I'm afraid that in my effort to find out why people think a certain way I've offended people by questioning their entrenched ideas of what is right and wrong.

I tend to lean a certain way (if you know me at all), but I like to believe that I reached that conclusion through independent analysis and reflection. My parents aren't very political (or at least it wasn't obvious to me growing up), and until the 2004 election I never really cared who won or lost. After that each election has been a big deal. Maybe it shouldn't be such a big deal since things don't really seem to change that much regardless of who is elected president (my one very political friend thinks the Presidential election is extremely overrated compared to the US congressional elections), but I really tend to judge the country on who they put in the highest office.

Anyway, I've tried to do as much analysis on the overall trends of certain presidents. I've looked at the top marginal tax rate, the national debt by year and the overall 2012 budget proposal by President Obama.  From that I've reached a few conclusions:
  1. If the national debt is an issue then any chance of a balanced budget needs to include an increase in revenue and a decrease in spending. Nobody is suggesting we go back to a top marginal tax rate of 92% (1953), but can we all calm down about possibly increasing the rate to 39.6% (the Clinton years). 39.6% isn't socialism unless you believe that we have been a socialist country since 1932.
  2. From a spending side there is also zero chance of having a balanced budget without cuts in some of the "sacred cows" of social security, defense and medicare/medicaid. The total deficit planned for 2012 was $901B, which is more than the non-defense discretionary spending of $568B. 
  3. I will bet anyone whatever money they want that neither Obama nor Romney will have a balanced budget in the next 4 years. 
  4. Any unique proposals (like Simpson-Bowles) should be considered. Increasing the top marginal tax rate (and the top marginal tax level), getting rid of the mortgage interest tax deduction (among other deductions) and decreasing defense spending shouldn't automatically be off the table.
I think we can improve things with an increase in information. Just like the gay marriage debate has been extremely uplifting (my opinion is that we have made an incredible amount of progress in a short amount of time) I think the facebook/twitter/etc world will make these discussion easier. With more information and exposure should come a better debate. This hasn't happened so far since both sides seem to camp out on their MSNBC/Fox News side right now, but I really believe that is going to change. People growing up now seem to be more cynical about the information given to them, which seems to make them more independent in their thinking. If those people stay independent then they will hopefully do their own research instead of focusing in on the talking points from both sides. From that my hope is that people will make their own decisions based on this research instead of just what their parents or community thinks. For example if they come to the conclusion that the 2nd amendment predicted and protected assault weapons then go ahead and vote Republican. And if maybe their research comes to the conclusion that Democrats are actually much better at managing the budget then they will vote Democrat. 

I really don't mind if someone votes Democrat or Republican as long as they understand what they are voting for and have reached that conclusion on their own. I've gone over my reasons for voting for Obama, but one of the main reasons I won't even consider Romney is because of the lack of information coming from this side. I've tried to follow his campaign by reading magazines (Time), newspapers (NY Times, Columbus Dispatch), anything online (Yahoo news, and by visiting his website. The lack of details are stunning. He talks like a machine version of a Republican candidate. He seems to be extremely afraid of sharing his opinions on anything more than "Obama sucks." From that he doesn't seem to giving independents a viable option to vote for instead of Obama, which makes it seem unlikely that Romney will win this year. Maybe I am wrong and this election will be more of a referendum on Obama than a vote in confidence of Romney? I thought that way in the 2004 election and was proven wrong, so this time around I am feeling fairly confident that Obama will win.

No comments: